The rise in consumers desire to eat more fresh, locally grown produce has given rise to the old homemaking skills of preserving food. Check of the educational offerings at community centers, park districts and supermarkets and you’ll find classes on canning, hydrating and pickling.
When you go to a farmers market and spy a bushel of green and glistening cucumbers, it’s hard to resist the temptation to buy them all. But then comes the practical matter of what do you do with them. You can eat only so much gazpacho and your neighbors are going to hide in the basement if they see you coming with one more paper bag filled with cukes. Knowing how to preserve those cucumbers will give you the opportunity to enjoy them long after summer is only a pleasant memory.
Pickling has become a rage at upscale restaurants, many of which now have their own onsite gardens. They, too, needed a way to preserve the bounty of produce, so they’ve turned to pickling. Now it’s not uncommon to see pickled vegetables as side dishes.
Don’t be intimidated by the idea of pickling. It does call up images of mason jars, big batches of boiling water and sanitary conditions rivaling that of an operating room. You can go that route, if you chose. According to the National Center on Home Food Preservation (www.nchfp.uga.edu) using what is called the water batch canning method will preserve vegetables and fruits for a year or more.
But is standing over hot water on a hot summer day isn’t your think, you can also pickle by using a hot brine. When I was growing up, nearly everyone had a batch of Refrigerator Pickles brewing their refrigerators. This was a crock or jar of sliced cucumbers and onions which was covered in a brine of vinegar and seasonings. Super simple to make; the only drawbacks are you need to make room in your fridge and they keep for only a month.
This link will take you to a recipe for Refrigerator Pickles that was originally in Cooking Light magazine:
Cucumbers aren’t the only veggies you can pickle. You can also use carrots, cauliflower, jalapenos, onions, beets, zucchini and lots of other produce.
This is a link to a Food Network recipe very similar to Refrigerator Pickles but using a combination of produce:
It only takes a little time and effort to pickle, but you’re making the most of dollars and the fresh produce of the season
Cora Weisenberger has been writing about food since 1997, first for her hometown newspaper and later for national magazines. She’s a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism, and can be found rattling about her suburban Chicago kitchen preparing goodies for hubby, Greg, and sons David and Jonathan. Read all of her blogs at http://womens.linkedlocalnetwork.net/cora-weisenberger/.